There’s nothing titillating about Akiba’s Trip. While its theme of forceful stripping seems salacious, groans of “Oh, Japan” aren’t as appropriate as one would suspect.
The act itself is simply a facet of the game’s combat, a fleshy flashy finish to the real meat of Akiba’s Trip. Considering how strong a brawler Akiba’s Trip is, Acquire doesn’t need any sexy sizzle to sell its steak.
As the protagonist, players are part of the Akiba Freedom Fighters, a group dedicated to keeping the streets of Akihabara clean of scum and villainy. Well, as best as a group of highschool students can. Despite acts of violence on the rise, the protagonist puts himself in an awkward position, nearly becoming a kinda-sorta-vampire (also known as Synthisters) in the process. He’s saved by a young woman named Shizuku, and our adventure begins…right after she bleeds into our hero’s mouth.
It’s a ridiculous premise, with just as absurd a plot to carry us through. I say this with love, as the story Akiba’s Trip tells is enjoyable and super amusing. It’s the tale of a nerd (or otaku in the game’s language) in paradise. Cosplay, video games, and maid cafés are the way of life in this district of Japan. All the retro game shops you’ve heard about reside here, awaiting your arrival. The game’s cast are built from anime stereotypes, but each is unique, and the game manages to be more of a love letter than a parody. Nana, the hero’s younger sister, is a standout character, constantly finding new ways to tie “bro” into conversation (with “Brosen one” being my favourite). Pitter, the game’s equivalent of Twitter, is another highlight, as it represents the variety of personalities we see across social media. Overall, the story is well told, funny, and manages to nicely string together the brawls that make up the game.
The combat is deliberately minimal, focusing less on sophisticated inputs and more on stringing combos together. When fighting, players make use of three attacks, each focusing on a different part of the body. The weapons you use are varied, ranging from guitars to figurines. While your input is the same, each weapon has different attacks associated with it, similar to Super Smash Bros.‘ roster. Finding the right weapon is a real treat, especially when you’re wielding the less typical tools like the bio leek (which happened to carry me through the game, like some sort of super powered Hatsune Miku). After wearing down the clothing of the enemy’s top, middle, and bottom, players then rip those articles off, exposing our vampiric foes to the sun and vanquishing them. Aiming for strip combos makes this mechanic sing, as it forces you to mix up your attacks among the group, and not tear a foe’s clothing off the first chance you get. Instead, by weakening many foes you’re able to bound from enemy to enemy, stripping them an article at a time. It’s the best way to dismantle a horde of Synthisters, and should your chain be big enough, you can even rob them of their underwear.
Obtaining these used garments is crucial to your character’s growth, as it allows you to increase your defenses. Your inventory can be synthesized into stronger equipment, a mechanic that is central to the experience. In many other games, weapon and armour is handed out as you progress, meaning there really isn’t a need to meld your bronze and silver sword. But in Akiba’s Trip, it’s crucial. While bosses and common grunts drop some pretty useful weaponry and clothing, it amounts to nothing in the long term. Synthesis is the only way to compete late in the game, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. The need to upgrade ties nicely into the game’s economy, creating a pleasant flow of battling, selling, and upgrading. Acquire put a lot of thought into this, allowing your in-game camera to not only identify nearby Synthisters, but also display the ratings of their wardrobe and tools.
Your appreciation of these systems is dependent on how well you can handle performance issues. Akiba’s Trip does have some problems, most with framerate and pop-in. The game’s skirmishes can chug at times, especially later in the game when facing the larger gangs. Things can really slow down, and it takes away from the chaos Acquire is aiming for. Pop-in, while a minor annoyance in most cases, turns ugly when it comes to finding the one NPC your mission requires. When an area loads, my instinct is to start walking down the street, watching for the telltale red-font name above the specific NPC. What tends to happen is I’ll pass by the spot where he should be, except he hasn’t loaded in yet. Considering some missions are timed means you’re racing the clock when there shouldn’t be a need. Eating into your real world clock is the game’s loading, which is frequent. Akiba is segmented, with each zone loading separately. Fast travel is available, but only reduces the amount of loading, not the act altogether.
When the credits rolled, I didn’t look back on marred experience. My take away was the fun I had, and I immediately jumped back in for another round (which the game makes easy to do, unlocking plenty of bonuses and allowing you to earn new endings). I enjoyed the game so much that I went and bought a physical copy. Brawlers can grow dull as the repetition sets in, but here the results are so fulfilling I sought out opportunities to duke it out. Akiba’s Trip has its problems, and while it’s important to bring them to light, the game is simply too much fun to turn away.